Monroe Academy: Henrietta’s First Famous School

  • Long before the Rush-Henrietta Central School District existed, education was a top priority for many in our community. In 1826, early settlers raised enough money to build Monroe Academy, a three-story boarding and day school located on the northeast corner of East Henrietta and Lehigh Station roads. On this site now stands a Speedway gas station.

    Orange Hedges, an early settler, donated the land for the building, and more than 60 residents raised $4,500 to fund its construction. In 1870, Monroe Academy became a public school; it’s third story was removed 16 years later. In 1926, it became Henrietta High School, one of many local school houses operating before the district was created in 1946. Six years later, in 1951, the Rush-Henrietta Central School opened. Our district’s first school for students in grades K-12, the building is known today as Roth Junior High School. 

    Our community has many intriguing connections to Monroe Academy. James Sperry, for whom the Rush-Henrietta Senior High School building is named, promoted the creation of the Monroe Academy. Antoinette Brown Blackwell, who became the nation’s first ordained woman minister in 1853, was educated at the Monroe Academy and became one of its teachers. 

    David B. Crane, namesake of Crane Elementary School, served as the first principal of Monroe Academy. According to the March 14, 1974, issue of The Henrietta Post, “Mr. Crane was asked to take four shares in the school and he also contributed a substantial sum toward the purchase of the bell.” Floyd Winslow, namesake of Winslow Elementary School, was a Monroe Academy student who later became its principal.

    To the great dismay of the community, the Monroe Academy building burned to the ground in 1974. It lives on today in the memories of those who walked its halls, and through memorabilia that has been preserved throughout the year. For example, the Henrietta Town Historian’s office has the weathervane that stood atop the building, and the school district has the historic bell - now nearly 200 years old - that was used to welcome children to school there. That bell most recently has been used to celebrate the graduations of the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021. 

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